Archive for the ‘performance art’ Category
This past Saturday night a bit before 9pm, I stepped down into a basement apartment in Long Island City, Queens, just a couple blocks from MoMA PS 9. A few weeks ago, I read glowing reviews about Siobhan O’Loughlin’s immersive theater piece Broken Bone Bathtub that occurs in private bathrooms, so I decided to check it out. Once through a small door that I had to duck under, a coat rack outside the apartment entrance received the audience. I went with a friend and we entered behind a young couple who were very excited about the experience. We stepped in to the living room of the apartment and were greeted by a cheery hostess who invited us to chocolate fondue and nuts and a few other appetizers. Red wine was also available, but required a small donation. The hostess, told us about herself, the apartment – voluntarily lent by immersive theater fans and the actress as we waited for the Siobhan to gather herself; this was the second performance of the evening.
A few minutes later, another young woman nodded to the hostess indicating that the actress was ready for us. The hostess asked for two volunteers who would be comfortable speaking and contributing to the piece. Two young women raised their hands and were taken to the bathroom for introductions and instructions. A few minutes later, the remaining four of us, were invited to enter the small bathroom; the audience was a total of six.
Siobhan sat naked in a cast iron bathtub, her breasts concealed by soap bubbles. The two volunteers sat adjacent to the bathtub and the rest of us took seats on a toilet, stool, small chair and small plastic step stool. The actress thanked us for coming asked if we were all comfortable and then began her narrative. Her left arm was in a cast, decorated with signatures and drawings. She told us about the pain and the time necessary to recover from a broken bone and the difficulties of day to day life with her left arm in a cast. She began to detail how the accident happened, riding her bike to an activist meeting along the west side of Prospect Park, headed to Grand Army Plaza. She asked if we were familiar with the area, everybody appeared to be and as I ride it regularly, she asked me to describe it. Following my description of the area, she told us that it was a rainy night and there was a husband and wife riding south as she rode north. It was dark and wet and perhaps the couple had been riding in tandem. She collided with the woman. The husband immediately attended to her wife as Siobhan found herself alone and in a great deal of pain…
Through the performance, topics such as who do we call at a moment of emergency, loneliness, whether or not we cry, were discussed by both the actress and the audience. She seamlessly moved through the responses from audience members back to her narrative. At one point she sang a song as one of the volunteers either scrubbed her back or conditioned her hair. She joked that throughout this period of healing, she borrowed the bathrooms of friends in order to not be alone. And throughout the performance she made sure to include each audience member.
The piece was smart and thought provoking. Unfortunately, the bathroom door was left ajar and at the beginning, the residents of the apartment were taking cell phone photos of us in their bathroom. Later, at times it was distracting to look out to the living room and see people on their devices. However, in general, the manner that Siobhan was able to weave the audiences’s discussion in to her performance was impressive. The one weak element in the piece was unfortunately the conclusion.
Siobhan entered a seemingly heartfelt conclusion, she allowed herself to cry as she discussed moving on from the healing period. The crying and the final monologue felt contrived in comparison to the rest of the performance, because unlike the preceding narrative, it did not engage dialogue, but was instead prescriptive. The uniqueness presented by the back and forth between the actress and each audience was broken and the piece reverted to conventional theater – a one way presentation. It would have been transformative, if each conclusion appeared to vary given the audience interaction. Siobhan could still maintain the underlying message, but it would be great if she was able to draw from what was shared by a given audience to inform the concluding monologue rather than loose the sense of immersion.
On a February Friday afternoon walking along Fulton near Nostrand in Brooklyn, my son and I encountered an artist/writer/performer/thinker mounting painted wooden statements or declarations to the temporary plywood of a construction site. We paused to ask him about his declarations and he broke them down one by one. According to the artist each sign represents a book that he is working on, but they also sound like moments and reflections from his life.
Artist Antonia Pérez creates sculptures by weaving discarded plastic bags. She worked at the gallery during the exhibition.
This is the final weekend for the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Street Market as Collaborator” at Cuchifritos Gallery located in the Essex Street Market. The exhibition curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful has been in the works for the past two years. The premise of the exhibition is for “six socially conscious artists to engage vendors, customers and the Market itself in their artistic processes as a means of co-generating experiences centered on the life that unfolds outside Cuchifritos Gallery, the art space of the Artist Alliance Inc”.
So in preparation for the exhibition, the artists came together with Jodi Waynberg the Executive Director of Artist Alliance as well as Nicolas to begin considering how the artists might work with the market. Jodi toured the artists through the market and introduced them to various vendors as well as the building manager and staff. Nearly all the artists attended a Vendors Association Meeting to present their projects and solicit collaboration.
As one may imagine, the vendors are small business owners and workers. The market is the place that they go to for employment, not necessarily for cultural engagement. Many of the vendors are entirely preoccupied with maintaining their business and were no nonsense about artistic participation. If the artists did not approach with a brief and concrete plan for collaboration, there was little chance of any cooperation. A few vendors were excited at the prospect of creative engagement and happily collaborated. However in general, the ambitious projects envisioned by the artists needed to be simplified.
Laia Solé and Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful employ the color green from the market to create a video montage that collapses the artists at work and the market at work.
For example, I wanted to create an audio montage of the vendors chanting or singing their goods and then to have that audio amplified onto the street via a bullhorn installed on the facade of the Essex Street Market. The concept was to have the interior of the market spill out onto the street as street markets commonly do in Latin America and Europe. Most of the vendors were not comfortable in singing their goods and the building management did not allow the installation of the bullhorn due to city ordinances regarding noise pollution (at least that was their excuse). When I was recording one of the vendors, a shopper approached me to tell me about recipes that she uses for a particular root. It then occurred to me that if vendors did not want to sing, perhaps they would share a recipe and the audio montage became primarily recordings of market recipes. As the piece would not be projected onto the street via a loudspeaker, I created a sandwich board with a speaker installed into it and wore the sandwich board on the street. In this way, the original concept of the piece was fully realized.
Each artist has her or his own story of how the work needed to be modified for the final exhibition. And in the end, this is the nature of collaboration.
After getting lost in beautifully tucked away trails toward the north west corner of Central Park, the discovery of the S.S. Hangover made for successful end of art hunting in Central Park this past Saturday. The only one disappointed in our group of six art viewers was the 5 year old who had envisioned riding the boat along the lake as the music played. Fortunately the soft pleasant music performed from the boat by the brass sextet calmed our disillusioned interactive art connoisseur.
Upon studying the ship, my 6 year old immediately asked why there was a fat unicorn on the sail. A Creative Time attendant, corrected him that it was not a unicorn, but the winged horse, Pegasus from the myth of Hercules. To everyone’s disappointment, she went on to explain that the fat Pegasus represents the struggling artist who has gotten older and is unable to achieve artistic recognition and glory. I immediately wondered why the artist had to take a nice performative piece and stamp it with such a trite concept.
The boat appeared to circle around a small island as it performed a piece by Kjartan Sveinsson. We only remained for iterations that were relaxing and pleasant. As we continued to walk around the Harlem Meer, we encountered Karyn Olivier’s “Here and Now/Glacier, Shard, Rock” – a lenticular signboard that shifts between photographs of the immediate environment behind the billboard, a glacier and pottery shard that resembled a Western classical pottery work.
Upon exiting Harlem Meer and Central Park on the east side, we encountered Spencer Finch’s “Sunset (Central Park)” – a soft-serve ice cream truck that employs solar panels to cool and power the soft-swerve. The line for the free ice-cream was far too long for us to experience the solar-cooled ice cream.
Overall the work that we encountered was poetic and relaxing at a time when so much of the immediate social issues carry friction, stress and the growing schism between the rich and poor on our earth.
Arts Across the Curriculum and the Integrated Media Arts MFA Program at Hunter College will host a performance by Martin Howse on Friday April 4th at 7pm in the Black Box – Hunter North 543.
Martin Howse is a unique new media artist who builds his own electronics and writes his own programs for performance. Berlin-based researcher, artist, inventor and performer Martin Howse traverses the electromagnetic spectrum as a space for exploration that may be manipulated to generate sound and visual. Martin Howse leads “micro_research,” a mobile research platform exploring psychogeophysics and asking the questions of where precisely the plague known as software executes.
Recently the Czech cultural center Školská 28 described Martin Howse performance as
“heavily improvised, playing with the collapse of massed, barely functional salvaged equipment and software systems made manifest in sound/noise and image, Howse presents a complex, process-driven constructivist performance; the symphonic rise of the attempt to piece together fugal systematics is played out against the noise of collapse and machine crash at the deserted border of control.”
Artist, performer, activist, professor Larry Bogad recently posted his TEDxUCDavis talk on YouTube. It’s well worth checking out and may inspire some fun and thoughtful hijinks!
Following the opening of Mexican artist Ivan Puig’s solo show at MagnanMetz gallery in New York City, Iggy and I visited with Puig and caught up regarding the SEFT-1 project (SEFT is an acronym for Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada or Manned Railway Exploration Probe). I first learned about the project in 2006 when Puig was just getting started on the concept of exploring abandoned railroads through out Mexico using a vehicle designed to travel the on the railroad tracks as well as car roads when necessary. Ivan was interested in seeing first hand what had happened to the communities that were built along the tracks and largely subsisted from the trains running throughout Mexico. Many of these communities are small rural populations that depended on the trains for various needs.
Puig spend a year traversing the abandoned railroad system with his half-brother Andrés Padilla Domene. As described on the exhibitions press release “The two set off from the National Museum of Art in Mexico City to begin their investigation of abandoned railways throughout Mexico and Ecuador, collecting evidence of their travels through photo, video and audio. Puig and Padilla Domene recorded contemporary landscapes, infrastructure and details of the everyday life of inhabitants to create a futuristic exploration of the countries’ pasts. Their progress has been consistently updated on the project’s website, www.seft1.com, where the public can follow the trajectory of the vehicle, view images of artifacts collected and listen to interviews with those they have met along the way.”
It appears that the SEFT-1 will be traveling to the UK to explore abandoned railways throughout the British countryside sometime in the next year. By doing so, the artist will expand the archive of stories regarding locomotive technology and the communities surrounding the technology.
Sarah Kanouse has published an excellent essay on radio as art practice in the public space. The essay “Take It to the Air: Radio as Public Art” is printed in the fall 2011 Art Journal and discusses three different art projects utilizing radio as the primary medium. Following the introduction, Sarah discusses the work of Jon Brumit and Neighborhood Public Radio, my own Public Broadcast Cart and the work of art collective LIGNA. The final wrap up of the essay is quite inspiring:
In these projects, radio is a prosthetic technology that transmits the physical world into the space of electronic communications and materializes the vast space of electromagnetic resources into something material and physically apprehensible. In so doing, it forces a confrontation with and contestation of the rules that govern and control the use of both spaces, positioning radio for creative interventions in manifold public spaces – not only those we inhabit with our bodies, as much of the best public art does, but also those we inhabit with our passions, our excesses, our energies, and our speech.